Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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“There is something special about Kyrgyzstan …”

… it gets into your blood, under your skin.” I don’t know exactly what it is, but there is something about this country that excites visitors – makes them want to extend their stay or at the very least to return.
Is it the spectacular scenery; the wildlife; the traditional nomadic culture; the distinctive crafts; the atmosphere connected with the many historical places and archaeological sites connected with the Great Silk Road, the Mongol Hordes, the Bolshevik Revolution; or the variety of possible activities; the hospitality of the local populace … or is it a combination of all of these factors?
Whatever it is, there is something that makes Kyrgyzstan “special”. It is a small country with over 90% of the territory classified as “mountainous”. The peaks and valleys divide the landscape into quite distinct landscapes, microclimates and habitats. It is possible to encounter many different experiences in a small geographical area, and a short space of time.
The Kyrgyz, themselves, recognize the uniqueness of the country as is shown in some of their legends.  One such legend that tells how, after the creation, God was apportioning plots of land to the various peoples of the world. The Kyrgyz, whilst waiting in line with all the others, decided that it was taking so long and that he needed to go and look after his sheep. When he returned, he discovered that God had finished his task – and the Kyrgyz asked God: “What plot of land shall I have to call my own?” God replied that all the land had been allocated – there was none left. The Kyrgyz said that he did not need a lot of land, it did not have to have lots of riches - it just had to be sufficient for him to pasture his flocks. God took pity on him and said that there was a little plot of land left. He had been intending to keep it for Himself as a garden for his own rest and relaxation, but the Kyrgyz could use it for pasturing his flocks.

Many visitors, however, know little about the country before they arrive.  One journalist has claimed that Kyrgyzstan is “arguably the world's least-known country”.   Whereas that may, or may not, have been true when it was written, (he did say “arguably”), time has passed and Kyrgyzstan occasionally makes an appearance in the world’s media.  Even so, many people today still get confused about “the Stans” in general, and have only a scant idea about where Kyrgyzstan is, and what can be found here.

The journalist, however, certainly summed up how I felt about the country when I first arrived, (for a 10 day holiday), back in 1994.  At that time it was very difficult to find out anything about this once remote corner of Central Asia – one of the small landlocked states to emerge from the former Soviet Union that lies in the heart of the Eurasian continent and once straddled the Great Silk Road.  Obviously, in school I had learned about the Great Silk Road, and about historical characters such as Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, but I had, really, no idea of what to expect as I descended steps from the airplane.  I would have welcomed a magazine such as Discovery Kyrgyzstan to open a window onto this country of contrasts: its variety of landscapes and wildlife, peoples and cultures, history and traditions.

That is one reason why I was glad to be asked to help with the Discovery magazines – and the name encapsulates the aim of the journals: to help the reader “discover” something new about this remote and relatively unknown region.  There is so much to discover.  Even though I now live in Bishkek, (the bustling, modern, capital city), I find that almost every day I discover something new.

Kyrgyzstan is a land of contrasts.  Even though it is only a small country, within its borders there are a multitude of spectacular landscapes; an abundance of wildlife – much of it very rare and endangered; a multi-ethnic population representing over 80 different nationalities each preserving their only culture, traditions and cuisine – primarily, of course, the nomadic Kyrgyz; numerous sites of historical interest and importance and a range of possible activities from mountaineering, trekking, rafting, skiing, or even just sitting on a beach, relaxing in the sunshiny.  In short, there is something for everyone.

We hope that in these pages you, too, will discover something of these various aspects and attractions that Kyrgyzstan has to offer.  

However, having said that, turning the pages of a magazine can only offer the reader a limited view of the country – a taste of more to come.  Deciding what topics to include, (and what to omit), and within each topic what information to include, (and what to omit), to fit the available space and format of the guide was a difficult task.  We hope, however, to have whetted your appetite to discover yet more.      

Welcome to Kyrgyzstan!  Welcome to the “Discovery Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide”!


Stephen KINZER in the New York Times, 14/05/2000


Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Travel guide#10/2008

Discovery Kyrgyzstan Travel guide #10/2008

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